...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

#1 Control Freak

So Ms. Vitamin B and I are playing at giving each other blog-assignments every couple weeks or so. She completed hers this past week (you can read it HERE), but I've been slacking. So... TODAY FINALLY!

VB's assignment:

Birth order... what effect do u think it has on ur personality... and do u find that u gravitate to people of a specific sibling order

* * * * * * *

We've all surely read about it at some point or another, that birth order has an effect on our personality. Most of it is kind of obvious: firstborn is an only-child for a period of time and will develop some of an only-child's characteristics but then has to contend with the whammy of becoming a sibling. The last-born gets babied and clung to for way longer than they should be. Etc. etc.

There is between a five and eight-year difference between me and my sibs: I am the oldest.

The following facts are verifiably true:

I am a control freak.

I am protective of others.

I am annoyingly responsible and dependable.

I strive to please people.

All of these are also commonly-accepted traits of the firstborn child.

But which are attributable solely to birth order and aren't just qualities I've developed because of how I was brought up, I can't say for certain.

I mean, I was educated in the school of self-control by my father, and you couple that with first-born tendencies and you've sure as shit got yourself a control-freak on your hands. I learned from an early age that: stoicism = good; emotions = bad. I had a mother who slept a lot to deal with depression, a father who looked at this and any other mental issues as a weakness and was always sure to remind us of that: Our emotions and our brains are all within our control. Only the weak will lose control of either.

To look at things this way is both a blessing and a curse. In some ways it makes you a stronger person. But it's actually the flexiblity of allowing ourselves the occasional weakness that fortifies our strength. And that's the problem with disavowing weakness: inflexible things tend to break.

We craft ourselves into smooth stone, into Another, for self-protection. Needless to say, it shouldn't surprise me that I once had a therapist tell me he was surprised and amazed by how well I'm able to hide my true self (even from him) within a seemingly secure and (for the most part) self-assured exterior.

And we craft to protect those we love:

My most vivid memories of my birth order playing out its dutiful role are in the moments where I would find myself loudly playing with or reading to or distracting my sibs to keep them from getting upset by the sound of my parents fighting. Not a particularly original story I'm sure. But again: the becoming of Another in order to protect.

Listen to old recordings of us all together: I'm the one bossing everyone else around.

Much to my annoyance, I'm still looked at as "the responsible one" even now. (For the longest time I wouldn't smoke or even let my siblings know that I smoked (far into adulthood) because I felt a sense of obligation to be a good role model to them, even if THEY were already all smoking.)

I will bend over fucking BACKWARDS to make people happy.

Again and again and again, all of these can be whittled back to the issue of control.

And the more you try to shake these things off, the more they cling to you:

I hold the switchblade of "responsible one" against my throat always, torn between feeling responsible to my family and wanting to just nick the jugular with a quick flick of the wrist so that people will stop relying on me and take care of themselves so I can do the same already. But my desire to keep people happy keeps this desire in check.

I find myself wanting to do shitty things to people sometimes just so I can break out of the mold of needing to please. But the responsibility I feel towards the folks I love keeps this desire in check as well.

And the need to control. Sweet jesus, the need control. This has always been my biggest challenge, and even as I get better with it, I still struggle. The relaxation of this self-control fluctuates depending on the state of my life at any given moment--when instability reigns, the control freak of course kicks itself into high gear down to the most fine-tuned of neurotic mechanisms, like needing to have clean dishes so that disarray won't win.

We deal. We do our best. We develop mechanisms to get through things.

Do I gravitate towards folks of a specific birth order? Not that I'm aware of. I've dated some firstborns, some not-first-borns, my best friend is a last-born.

And really: nothing can be reduced solely to birth order--we are an amalgamation of a variety of forces. So even the first-born can be the last-born, the last-born, the first. We are all complex and irreducible, and that's what makes us so fascinating.

Nonetheless, this bouquet of qualities (be they results of birth-order or just of more vague environmental influences) play out fiendishly and complicatedly when it comes to those I love.

My desire to please is both rewarding and crippling, a double-edged sword always. It's not a bad thing to want to make someone happy. But when this need starts to chew off its own foot, it most certainly isn't good.

My need to control also means that it takes me a long long while to let my guard down. If I even smell the SLIGHTEST bit of reason to distrust you, you will never know me. Typically this means of self-preservation upsets me, but once in a while I find myself glad to be able to say that someone I cared about never even knew me. I am a fortress.

This blog too is the blog of a control freak. At times I think to myself: Jesus, what these people must think of me and my seeming willingness to say anything and expose anything about myself.

But really, it's all a very careful crafting.

You only know me as I choose for you to know me. No more, no less.

Even in what I've chosen to tell you right now, you only know what I want you to know.

But every once in a while someone comes along with the patience and desire to crack through. And their willingness to take on this struggle is almost always a sign that they're worth letting in.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home